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A Claudia Gray Book Review! No, Not That One

With the release of Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, I thought it would be a great idea to not review it – because truly that would be the hottest of hot takes, right? Instead I’d like to go back to where it all began with her debut Star Wars young adult novel, Lost Stars. Before I begin I’d like to direct your attention to Nathan Butler’s review, which you can read alongside this, instead of this, leave it entirely or sail away into the sunset on your luxurious boat. I imagine you have a boat for some reason.

Hopefully you can pilot it better than the idiot flying this thing

Hopefully you can pilot it better than the idiot flying this thing

As is my wont, let’s briefly discuss the cover: it is pretty. Carry on.

Okay I should probably say more: I love the composition, it’s stylistically simple (my preferred design) and yet it contains an explosion of colour that I find quite appealing, and the almost comic-book effect of the dying Star Destroyer is a daring but appreciated touch. Also you’ll notice that the artist has given a subtle nod to JJ Abrams by providing not one but two muted lens flares. Truly we live in the renaissance of book cover art.

But – on to the book proper. MILD SPOILERS from here on out.

As M’colleague Nathan Butler notes, Lost Stars is somewhat known as the Romeo and Juliet of Star Wars.

Uh huh

Uh huh

Putting aside the problems with painting every romance as Romeo and Juliet, yes, this is a romance. This feels like a dirty thing to say, though it shouldn’t be. Perhaps it’s the success of the Rom-Com movie genre, but for many people ‘romance’ conjures up negative connotations. If this is so, if your standard is derived from a distaste of Rom-Coms (I mostly empathise) then let me assure you right now that it’s one of the better romances out there.

The story follows two characters from childhood and into adulthood, through the Imperial academy and throughout the Imperial civil war – where the two characters, Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, fight on opposite sides – and just briefly beyond. Throughout this entire story they maintain a deep and enduring friendship which, of course, blossoms into romance. So what makes that romance so good? For my money it was the fact that they both shared a deep passion about a subject – flying – that drew them together, and that they both shared a deep compassion for events and the people of the galaxy. But more than that, they had their differences of opinions – and still managed to maintain that relationship. As I said, one leaves the Empire to fight for the Rebellion, and one stays – this is the main difference, but not the only one. Ciena is, I suppose, a bit of a bogan, a backwards country girl, whereas Thane is the city boy. Though raised on the same planet, they’re from two entirely different communities, which affects their outlook and their actions and it is this that determines their paths later on in life. Because of this foundation, it makes their decisions all the more believable.

Especially after the worst happens. You know, like leaving your wallet on Alderaan.

Especially after the worst happens. You know, like leaving your wallet on Alderaan.

There are of course issues with being on different sides, and it’s not exactly smooth sailing, but for the most part they handle their relationship in a mature and clear headed way that is so very refreshing. This has to be one of the few moments when I’m cheering the lack of drama in a story!

Earlier I mentioned that this is known as the Story With The Romance (working title). This is not entirely the case: it is also the one known as The Story That Takes Place With The Story From The Films Happening In The Background and it’s at this point that we all collectively realise that I’m we’re not very good at naming things. To clarify the point of that explanatory-to-a-fault title, the story of Lost Stars takes place during the Imperial civil war, otherwise known as Episodes IV-VI. Like many in-the-gaps stories, Lost Stars features several characters and scenes from the films – the inclusion of which is often difficult to pull off well. And yet Gray ably succeeds and manages to deliver these old scenes with fresh eyes and new perspectives. So how does she tackle them exactly? Let’s look at the battle of Hoth, and in particular, Dak Ralter – AKA Luke’s co-pilot in the snowspeeder.

AKA The guy about to be squished

AKA The guy about to be squished

In the book there is a little scene between Thane and Dak where nothing of real importance is discussed or happens, but it does provide greater depth to a character who started off with little depth and ends up lacking all depth entirely (see above pic). As for the battle itself, there is an explanation to provide the larger scale context of the war, and Gray does a good job of describing the battle, but for the most part it focuses on Thane and his internal conflict, what this battle means to him and his fears of having to battle Ciena.

And this is something that happens at almost every instance: Gray uses the events of the films as a backdrop rather than the driving force of the plot. She does this by explaining exactly what’s going on – and does so not just out of due diligence, out of the need to be a good writer, but because it enhances her own story – and though she does acknowledge the importance of these events, she doesn’t let it overwhelm her own story. By using the story that we all know so well*, that acts as a sort of crutch, or comfort (without being too didactic about it) and allows both herself as the writer and us as the reader to explore these new characters and these new just-out-of-shot worlds.

*Hopefully; otherwise what are we doing on a Star Wars fansite?

Which brings me to my next point: these two characters are incredibly skilled pilots, operating in extraordinary times – times that are thought so even to the inhabitants of a galaxy that has the Force, Gray still manages to keep the story and characters … normal. Grounded. There’s a mundanity to it all. Trust me, I mean that as a compliment.

'For your sake, you better hope so.'

‘For your sake, you better hope so.’

By this I mean that, even though this is all taking place in the middle of a galaxy spanning war, Gray keeps everything small scale, and as such it feels much more personal. Our main characters aren’t going to win the war single-handedly, they just want to survive it and live their own lives. They’re us, really. So when one is in peril, or when someone close to them dies, or when their Alderaanian friend stays loyal to the Empire even after the destruction of his home planet (yeah, this may be a young adult novel but it tackles some pretty hefty subjects with admirable adeptness), those actions hit home with far more impact than they normally would. And because of it, these characters – for me at least – stuck with me long after I put the book down. Seriously, it’s been months since I’ve read it and I’m writing this!

Before I leave you, I want to bring up something else: the writing itself. There’s a distinct charm to the narration that makes the reading a pleasure in itself. The narrative voice is easy going (in the good way), warm and full of character; it feels like a friend is telling you their story, rather than someone recounting a story. And because of that I’m utterly delighted that Gray got to add a second story to the Star Wars Saga, and hopefully there’ll be many more to come.

Michael Dare

LIVE from Celebration Europe; The Star Wars Report!

Why yes! You read that correctly! Our 2nd Airborne Flagship podcast The Star Wars Report will be recording LIVE from the podcast stage at Star Wars Celebration Europe! First reported by our good friend Mark Newbold over at, we are proud to announce that we will be there! And we’re bringing friends!

SWR at CEu

At the moment details are still being worked out for the logistics, but rest assured, you WILL hear the Star Wars Report at Celebration Europe. While our own Mark won’t be able to attend this year’s Celebration, if technology allows, he’ll be ready in the wings to jump in if all goes well. And if it doesn’t, fear not because BOTH Riley and Bethany Blanton will be in attendance. And the Star Wars Report will be sharing the stage with long time friend Tricia Barr, and her Fangirls Going Rogue co-host and our own fellow 2nd Airborne Podcaster, Teresa Delgado!  So plan on plenty of Star Wars discussion! Below we’ve attached the tentative schedule for the podcast stage. We hope to see you there!

Friday, July 15

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Full of Sith and Lattes With Leia
One panel, two podcasts: Prepare to make your first jump to hyperspace with Full Of Sith, the show dedicated to the most interesting Star Wars conversations in the galaxy and then pour a cup of your beverage of choice and take a trip to the galaxy far, far away with Lattes With Leia.

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Blabba the Hutt and Following The Nerd
One panel, two podcasts: Strap yourselves in for the emerald hour! All the way from Dublin, Ireland, it’s Blabba The Hutt and joining them are Following The Nerd, the podcast that’s bang up to date on all the latest news, reviews, articles, and information across all mediums from games to action figures.

3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Fly Casual and SithLord 229
One panel, two podcasts: We’re coming in at full throttle with Fly Casual, the podcast that’s more than a journey. It’s all about our Star Wars lives and YouTube star SithLord229, providing in-depth, HD analysis of some of the coolest Star Wars toys and collectables from across the galaxy!

Saturday, July 16

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Star Wars Action News and Star Wars Collectors Cast
One panel, two podcasts: There’s no such thing as coming in too fast when you have two of the world’s premiere collecting podcasts joining forces. We have Star Wars Action News bringing all the latest news and reviews from the Star Wars galaxy. Star Wars Collectors Cast is here covering UK and worldwide collecting.

12:30 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Star Wars Report and Fangirls Going Rogue
One panel, two podcasts: Echo Station 3-T-8, we have spotted Imperial walkers and they’re bringing two amazing podcasts with them. The Star Wars Report bring us in-depth news coverage from the galaxy far, far away, and joining them are Fangirls Going Rogue, the first Star Wars podcast hosted exclusively by fangirls.

4:30 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. 
Steele Wars
Jumping out of lightspeed too close to the system is Australian comedian Steele Saunders, bringing his unique flavor to Celebration Europe. Steele loves Star Wars and finds people of interest to talk to him about it. We are honored by his presence.

Sunday, July 17

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Chive Cast and The Vintage Rebellion
One panel, two podcasts: It’s the golden hour! The Star Wars Collectors Archive Podcast brings us its knowledge of vintage Star Wars toys and memorabilia and Vintage Rebellion discusses Star Wars toys from yesteryear. WAMPA!! WAMPA!!

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
RADIO 1138 and Take Cover
One panel, two podcasts: We reach the end of our Celebration Europe podcast panel journey for 2016 as RADIO 1138 see out the show with Star Wars news from across the galaxy and Take Cover grab their bookmarks to discuss book, comic, and magazine news.

And there you have it folks! Stay tuned to the Star Wars Report website as we continue to keep you apprised of all the latest and greatest details! Until then, we’ll keep sending Bothans into the heart of danger to bring you the most hard hitting stories in our fandom!

7 New Star Wars Books We Can’t Wait to Read

Mitchell Stein- With The Force Awakens released in theaters nationwide earlier this year, Star Wars has been going through a generational resurrection, and the beloved franchise is back and better than ever, with great films, television content and even a major presence at the Disney theme parks. But beyond just the annual spectacular films coming within the next five years (continuing with Rogue One this December), the Star Wars universe lives beyond the screen into theme park attractions and even a brand new slew of books. Within the next few months, Star Wars fans will be treated to dozens of brand new fantastic books, and today we’ll be taking a look at the biggest and most noteworthy Star Wars books hitting the market and where you can check them out.

Continue reading

8 Reasons Why Establishing the Star Wars Canon was the Right Thing to Do

Over 2 years ago on April 25, 2014, Lucasfilm announced its controversial decision to officially rebrand the Expanded Universe (or EU) collection under the new label of Star Wars Legends, emphasizing that all previous Star Wars stories before this date (with the exception of Episodes I through VI and the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and TV series) were not part of the official canonized Star Wars universe. In short, Lucasfilm created a blank slate upon which the Star Wars universe could continue to unfold in preparation for the highly anticipated new trilogy of films.


It’s no surprise that this decision affected the varying level of Star Wars fans differently. The casual fan—the one who had only seen the movies once or twice—was generally unaffected by the news except for a slight confusion about what the European Union (EU) had to do with Star Wars. The die-hard fans were split into two factions, what I like to call the “purists” and the “unconditional” fans. The purists were already on edge, fearing that the acquisition of Lucasfilm by Disney and the subsequent “commercialization” of the franchise would lead to its ultimate demise. These fans became even further disillusioned at what they viewed as the “demotion” of the Expanded Universe to Legends. They weren’t happy campers. The unconditional fans, however, had matured to a point in their fanship where their love and devotion to the saga and their trust for its handlers would remain true no matter what. These fans accepted the decision with open minds and hopeful hearts.

As an unconditional fan, feasting on the new Star Wars Canon for the past 2 years has been incredibly rewarding for me. Here are 8 reasons why Lucasfilm made the right decision on that fateful day. Continue reading

A Trooper’s Point of View – Building a TIE Fighter Pilot Part 3


It’s been a stressful few months but the finish line is in sight as I’m nearing completion of my TIE Fighter pilot costume.  I have all of the construction finished and the costume is now fully wearable, I’m only missing the shoulder straps, a mostly cosmetic piece, before I can submit it for approval.  In some cases, it’s easier to opt for a buying a complicated piece instead of trying to make one.  Laziness and overall comfort won out for me in this case.

Previously, I had documented my build all leading up to a large trooping event in April.  I was able to get all my pieces wearable in time, and I had a blast wearing the pilot outfit.  The event was the Salem Red Sox Star Wars night for our local minor league baseball team.  A very fun event and one of the largest events in our area with over a dozen troopers and thousands of attendees.


I achieved my goal of having the costume be wearable at the baseball game

It’s important to try on the costume often to make sure that you have everything lining up correctly.  This will lead to many awkward photos in your garage or living room as you are wearing pieces of a costume that are often times held in place by tape or sheer will.  But, it’s part of the process and important to make sure that you are building something that can actually fit you.

No matter how many times you try on a costume while you are building it, you are never fully prepared for what will happen when you actually go out and wear it to an event.  Every time you wear it you find things that need to be adjusted.  It takes several times before you are able to fully dial in the fitting.  There are just some things you can’t account for until you are actually out in the world interacting with people.  It’s been no different this time around either.  I’ve now worn this costume to four events and each time I’ve come home with something that needs to be adjusted.


Since I started with the 501st Legion in July of 2008 I’ve only ever had full hard armor costumes, a Stormtrooper and later a Sandtrooper.  The armor is extremely limiting in your movements and over time I’ve grown accustomed to those limitations and found my best ways of dealing with it and compensating.  However, the TIE pilot is only hard armor on the chest and a helmet.  More than once I’ve been shocked at how much mobility I have and I have to keep reminding myself that I can actually bend or even sit while in costume.


My Sandtrooper (right) in December for The Force Awakens premiere

This has been a stressful build and more than once I’ve felt completely overwhelmed by it all.  With that being said, I’ve enjoyed the building and I’m really enjoying wearing the costume, even if I do get called Darth Vader all the time.  I’ve tried to document my build through the various Legion forums in an effort to provide assistance to others going through their build in hopes that they can learn from both my successes and my failures.  I look forward to trooping as TI-5990 now.  Of course, I’m constantly looking ahead to what the next project and costume will be.  Costuming can become an addiction, we are always looking ahead to the next build.  Star Wars has so many great costumes that it can be hard to narrow it down to just one.  For the next costume, I have to remember to give myself a much more realistic timeframe.